What Color Was That Dino?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Will Chinese Dino Feathers Reveal Their Secrets?

Dinosaurs must have been some color or another, but what? So far, artists and paleontologists could only guess, but recent discoveries in Mongolia may start to answer the question. Mark Norell and Michael Novacek of the AMNH have found dinosaurs fossil feathers that clearly show bands of dark and light that millions of years ago had some color. Perhaps they were only black and white, but they may have been red and yellow or blue and orange.

Sometime in the fall of 2001, we may start to find out what the real colors were.

How is this possible? The answer is in pigments and bacteria.

We know from the remains of modern birds, that pigments of certain colors leave specific chemical "traces" (tiny, microscopic bits of chemicals) when bacteria "digest" them. There are also chemical "traces" in fossils. A red pigment leaves a different trace than a blue pigment or a green pigment.

By studying the chemical traces in fossilized feathers, Dr. Norell hopes to discover some of their secrets! Stay tuned!


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